Memorial Day: Beginning, Present and Future

May 31, 2005

In 1865, Henry C. Welles, one of Waterloo’s most prominent druggists, now known as pharmacists, thought it would be a nice gesture to place flowers on the graves of the patriotic Civil War veterans from the area who had died.

The following year, after pitching his idea to Gen. John B. Murray, a Civil War hero, the wheels of a Memorial Day celebration were set in motion.

Jump way ahead to March 1966, when Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller recognized Waterloo’s hometown honors with a proclamation. Later that year, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate unanimously passed House Concurrent Resolution 587, reading, "Resolved, that the Congress of the United States, in recognition of the patriotic tradition set in motion one hundred years ago in the Village of Waterloo, NY, does hereby officially recognize Waterloo, New York as the birthplace of Memorial Day ."

Memorial Day has arrived yet again, a time which, for many of us, has come to signify the beginning of summer. I believe that now, more than ever, it is important for us, as a community, state and nation to observe Memorial Day for its true and original meaning a celebration and remembrance of the brave service of men and women who gave their lives for their country. As we continually observe and worry about our courageous soldiers overseas now, let us not forget those who so bravely fought for our country in days gone by.

Just as we must honor those who serve, we must ensure that military bases in their service are kept active and ready to provide backup. The U.S. Defense Department recently released its list of recommended military base closures as part of its Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. Hancock Field, near Syracuse, was, fortunately for us, not listed, as Defense Department officials must have realized its operations proved too vital to our state and nation. Unfortunately, New York was not without its casualties, as many hard-working New Yorkers found their jobs in jeopardy at military installations in Rome and Niagara Falls.

I believe this sends a relevant signal not only to make sure that we stand up for our soldiers, but also to ensure we stand up for their institutions. Bases throughout New York provide thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue. We must support those who protect us.

Please, remember all of this on Memorial Day, and spend some time thinking about or doing something in support of our brave and courageous men and women in the military.